Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Life in Dushanbe

It's already been a couple of weeks in Dushanbe and things seem as normal as ever. For Istiqlol (Tajik Independence Day) on the 9th, we went to a concert of a well known Pamiri pop group, Shams, and had a great time dancing (desptie the synthesizer and "fake drums" as Andy calls it). For a week we were living in the apartment with Sharlyn and three dancers from her troupe in America (Aliah, Tara, and Rosa) as well as Sonja's teacher, Robyn. We were all trying to wrap up the project and get classes organized for the Tajik interns, who will be taking classes in English, Anthropology, and Video Production starting in October, courtesy of the Tajik Dance Intitiative. The apartment was a crazy house for a while. Suddenly, everyone left and we spent a day cleaning the place. Now all is calm.
Sonja, as usual, is doing a wonderful job of keeping herself busy: taking Tajik dance classes at Theatre Padida, meeting with a Farsi teacher, and writing the first part of her masters thesis. In his spare time (i.e. his waking hours) Andy has been aquainting himself with the Tajik language, which is relatively close to Farsi, but as we are discovering, also quite different. Maruf (one of the interns from the project) has been frequently stopping by the apartment and keeping Andy busy. He recently took andy to a local instrument maker where Andy bought a doyra (frame drum). Now he just needs to find someone to teach him how to play it. Starting next week, Andy will be assisting the interns as they edit short films from the footage we shot in Badakhshan for the Video Production class. Things are moving right along. Exept for a few things, like the cops who stand on every corner blowing whistles at passing cars in order to stop them and take bribes, Dushanbe is starting to feel like just another city.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Musiqi Badakhshani

I posted more field recordings from Badakhshan. Enjoy!

Murgab mp3
Ishkoshim mp3
Bartang mp3

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Khorog to Dushanbe

All of a sudden, our time in Khorog was up. Robyn and Sharlyn were back from the states to help us wrap things up and our last two days were spent working hard to finish what work we had to do for the project (putting together field notes, making audio and video copies for artists, figuring out what we had done with the budget, etc.) and, of course, throwing a party for ourselves and everyone we had gotten to know during our time in Badakhshan. Originally, our plan was to fly back. But, it turned out that getting seven plane tickets to Dushanbe would be terribly difficult considering that everyone and their mother were trying to get to Dushanbe for “Istiqlol” (not sure if it’s spelled right), or Independence day, on September 9th. So, five of us (the three Americans and the two Dushanbe interns) decided to find a ride back and try and stop along the way and document more dance and music. Uvaido went to find us a driver Sunday morning and to our absolute delight, he showed up with Faizali, the same driver who took us from Dushanbe to Khorog six weeks ago!! When the time came, saying goodbye to everyone was very difficult. We made some real friends with whom we shared some life changing experiences.

The plan was to stop in Vanj and find some dancers and musicians, but when we arrived we found that all of the artists had just left to Dushanbe or Khorog to prepare for independence celebrations. We could have waited a day for people to try to find some artists for us, but instead of waiting we headed for Darvoz, where we had stopped on the trip to Khorog, where Faizali knew people, and where we suspected we would have a friendly place to stay. It turned out that we were right. The family that hosted us on the way in was all too happy to see us back and greeted us with smiles, tea, and food. What's more, the man hosting us (who is the head of the village) works next to a music and dance studio and arranged a performance for us the next morning. From Darvoz, we went to Nurak to visit Maruf’s family, who hosted us with meal after meal and a relaxing visit to a sauna. Now we’re back in the Dushanbe apartment and missing the people and environment of the Pamirs. Surely, we’ll have more adventures here in the big city, especially with Independence Day approaching, and with Andy living in an apartment with five women. As always, we’ll try to keep you posted as events occur.


Our last official expedition: Bartang valley, north of Khorog. For this trip, we were joined by Robyn (Sonja’s dance teacher and organizer of this project) and her husband, Neil. The three-hour ride to the village of Siponj was smooth and short compared to the rough and lengthy Murgab and Ishkoshim trips. Four members of our group left the day before to find dancers, musicians, and a place for us to stay. So, when we arrived we were greeted with hot soup, an orchard full of apples, and musicians patiently waiting. The family we stayed with was more than kind and the head of the household a wonderful dancer. To our delight, the advance team was able to locate a local musical guru, Jonboz. He was hesitant at first to play because of his ailing health, but after he warmed up to us was sharing his music and wisdom with little coaxing. In fact, by the end of our stay, he had taking such a liking to Maruf, a member of our group who had grown up in Badakhshan and is himself a musician, that he bequeathed him a setar and a two hundred year old book of Hafez poetry! To top it all off, we had some extra time to get some swimming in and hike up the side of the mountain to some ancient tombs.